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Updated: Houston startup relaunches to connect the dots for travelers

Houston-based entrepreneurs have launched Guzo, a travel social networking app. Getty Images

This story has been updated to reflect new information.

A year or so ago, Gordon Taylor had thousands of college students using his rideshare app focused on roadtrips, Croozen, across almost 20 universities in the United States. But, as the company grew to the general population, he realized his concept wasn't sustainable for a wider range of people.

First of all, the average Houstonian doesn't drive across Texas too frequently. And, if they do, they look to busses, planes, or driving themselves, Taylor says. Plus, Americans are very conditioned to fear rides from strangers.

"There are successful platforms in Europe that were doing this, but Americans are so different in terms of cultures," he says.

Six months ago, Taylor, along with his brother, Joshua, decided to pivot his travel company and relaunch it as Guzo — "melkam guzo" means "have a great trip" in Ethiopia.

"One of the things that got Gordan and I excited in the beginning of Croozen was just the idea of someone else in the car with you and that shared experience," Joshua Taylor says. "Looking past that, just being focused on the car was hindering us. Let's divorce the car and focus on travel as a whole."

Guzo is a collaborative social network that will be a one-stop platform for experiencing and planning travel. Users can register to the app and connect with friends, acquaintances, and even strangers to solicit ideas for different vacation spots. Rather than spread across apps like text message, Google Docs, Instagram, and Pinterest, for example, you can have all your ideas right in one app. The brothers asked their friends, family, and previous Croozen users to see what they'd want from a travel app, and that played into how they designed Guzo.

The new app launched January 29 at a party at City Hall. The mayor has even declared it Guzo Day. Both native Houstonians, the Taylor brothers say Guzo will focus solely on travel in Houston at first, but they will branch out to other cities, states, and international destinations down the road.

The brothers have a lot of ideas and goals for the app, including Guzo Guides, which will be a select number of influencers in each city that can offer their professional advice on things to do. More details on the app and the guides will become available when the app launches.

For the Taylor brothers, Guzo is all about connecting people when they travel.

"Whatever business you run, there are people involved," Joshua Taylor says. "So, we want to be able to use our platform to bring people together and have them travel more efficiently."


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Building Houston

 
 

Seven startups walked away with cash prizes from this year's MassChallenge accelerator program in Houston. Photo via Getty Images

MassChallenge named its winners of its 2020 accelerator at a virtual event on October 22. The program awarded a total of $200,000 in equity-free prizes across seven startups from its second Houston cohort.

This year's program took place completely virtually due to the pandemic. Already, the 56 startups involved in the cohort have raised $44.4 million funding, generated $24 million in revenue, and created 297 jobs, says Jon Nordby, managing director of MassChallenge Texas in Houston, in a news release.

"This has been a year full of change, to say the least," he says. "But startups thrive in uncertain times — because they can move fast and remain agile, they are able quickly meet each new need that arises. I'm extremely proud of the startups in our 2020 cohort — during the course of the program, they've pivoted, adjusted, and evolved in order to grow their businesses."

The startups that won across the Houston cohort included Houston-based PATH EX Inc., which won the $100,000 Diamond Award, is focused on the rapid diagnosis and treatment of sepsis through an unique pathogen extraction platform.

Four companies won $25,000 Gold Awards:

  • Healium, based in Columbia, Missouri, is an extended reality device created for self-management of anxiety.
  • Ozark Integrated Circuits Inc., based in Fayetteville, Arkansas, specializes in problem solving using technology and software in the harshest environments – from jet engines to earth orbit.
  • PREEMIEr Diagnostics, based in Southfield, Michigan, created a way to identify which premature infants need an adjustment to their glucose levels to prevent them from losing vision.
  • Scout Inc., based in Alexandria, Virginia, is developing the first commercial in-space satellite inspection service.

Two companies won the Sidecar Awards, securing each a $25,000 Innospark Artificial Intelligence Prize.

  • Articulate Labs, based in Dallas, makes mobile, adaptive devices to help knee osteoarthritis and knee replacement patients rehabilitate on the go during everyday activity.
  • Houston-based Starling Medical has tapped into tech to optimize urinary catheter for patients with neurogenic bladder dysfunction.
The Houston Angel Network awarded Ozark Integrated Circuits their prize of $50,000.
"The progress these entrepreneurs made in just a few months has all of the hope, drama, anticipation, and optimism of seeing dawn break after a particularly difficult night," says Wogbe Ofori, Principal at 360Approach and a MassChallenge mentor, in the release. "It's fulfilling, actually, and makes me proud to be a MassChallenge mentor."
The seven startups were awarded alongside 27 other startups from this year's Austin, Boston, and Rhode Island accelerators at the virtual event. The event was hosted by Chris Denson of Innovation Crush, and featured a fireside chat between Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, and Linda Pizzuti Henry, managing director at the Boston Globe.
Earlier this fall, MassChallenge named its 10 startup finalists, whittled down from 56 from 13 countries and 13 states to its first-ever virtual accelerator, which began in June.

"In the face of great uncertainty, MassChallenge Texas in Houston charged forward and did exactly what they ask their startups to do: love the problem," says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in the release. "The successful pivot to virtual is a testament to the strength of their global community and the motivation of the Houston ecosystem to get behind new ideas and create businesses that will set roots and grow here.

"As one of the most innovative cities, Houston is a place where startups can thrive – even in the midst of a pandemic. Programs like MassChallenge provide the best practices and networks to ensure startups get the access they need to create sustainable businesses and lasting change."

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